The art of happiness
Among the greatest of blessings is to have a calm, stable, and happy heart. For in happiness the mind is clear, enabling one to be a productive person. It has been said that happiness is an art that needs to be learned. And if you learn it, you will be blessed in this life. But how does one learn it? A basic principle of achieving happiness is having an ability to endure and to cope with any situation. Therefore you should neither be swayed nor governed by difficult circumstances, nor should you be annoyed by insignificant trifles. Based on the purity of the heart and its ability to endure, a person will shine. When you train yourself to be patient and forbearing, then hardship and calamity will be easy for you to bear.
The opposite of being content is being shortsighted, being concerned for no one but one’s own self and forgetting about the world and all that is in it. Allah described his enemies as follows:
Thinking about themselves [as how to save their ownselves, ignoring the others and the Prophet] (Qur’an 3. 154)
It is as if such people see themselves as being the whole universe, or at least at the center of it. They think not of others, nor do they live for anyone but themselves. It is incumbent upon you and me to take time out to be preoccupied with more than just us, and to sometimes distance ourselves from our own problems in order to forget our wounds and hurts. By doing this we gain two things: we make ourselves happy, and we bring joy to others.
Basic to the art of happiness is to bridle our thoughts and to restrain them, not allowing them to wander, stray, escape, or go wild. For if you were to leave your thoughts to wander as they wish, then they will run wild and control you. They will open the catalogue of your past woes. They will remind you of the history of your misfortunes, beginning from the day that your mother gave you birth. If your thoughts are left to roam, then they will bring to you images of past difficulties and images of a future that is frightening. These thoughts will shake your very being and will cause your feelings to flare. Therefore bridle them, and restrain them by directing them to the concentrated application of the kind of serious thought that begets fruitful and beneficial work.
And put your trust in the Ever-Living One who dies not. (Qur ‘an 25: 58)
Also among the principles of the art of happiness is to value life on this earth according to its true merit and worth. This life is frivolous and does not warrant anything from you except that you turn away from it. This life is filled with calamities, aches, and wounds. If that is the description of this life, then how can one be unduly affected by its minor calamities, and how can one grieve over such material things as have passed him by? The best moments of life are tainted, its future promises are mere mirages, the successful ones in it are envied, the one who is blessed is constantly threatened, and lovers are struck down by some unexpected misfortune.
And in a hadith:
“Verily, knowledge is only acquired by the practice of learning, and tolerance is acquired by the practice of tolerating.”
If one were to attempt to apply the meaning of this hadith to the topic under discussion, then he could go one step further and say that happiness is acquired by assuming it. It is acquired by constantly smiling, by hunting for the reasons that make one happy, and even by forcing it onto one’s own self, however awkward that may seem. One does all of these things until happiness becomes second nature.
The truth of the matter is that you cannot remove from yourself all remnants of grief. And the reason for this is that life was created as a test:
Verily, we have created man in toil. (Qur’an 90: 4)
That He might to, you, which of you are the best in deeds. (Qur ‘an 11: 7)
But the message I wish to convey to you is that you should, as much as is possible, reduce the amount and intensity of your grief as
For being completely free from grief, this is for the inhabitants of Paradise in the Hereafter. This is why the dwellers of Paradise will say:
All the praises and thanks be to Allah, Who has removed from us [all] grief’
(Qur’an 35: 34)
This is considered to be a proof that grief will not be removed from them except in Paradise. Likewise, grudges and bitterness will not be completely removed except in Paradise.
(And we shall remove from their breasts any sense of injury [that they may have]…} (Qur’an 15. 47)
So when a person knows the nature of this world and its qualities, he comes to realize that it is dry, deceitful, and unworthy; and he comes to fully understand that that is its nature and its description. An Arab poet said:
“You have taken an oath not to betray us in our pacts, and it is as if you have vowed that in the end, you shall deceive us.”
If the description of this world is as I have described it to be, then it is worthy of the intelligent person not to help it in its onslaught, nor to surrender to depression and anxiety. What we should do is defend ourselves from all feelings that may spoil our lives, in a war that we must wage with all the strength that we have been endowed with. And make ready against them all you can of power, including steeds of war to threaten the enemy of Allah and your enemy… (Qur’an 8: 6O)
But they never lost heart. For that which did not befall them in Allah’s Way, nor did they weaken nor degrade themselves. (Qur’an 3: 146)